International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day is a worldwide annual observance held on 21st February.

The theme of the 2021 International Mother Language Day, “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society,” acknowledges that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on leaving no one behind. UNESCO believes education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.

Young Dawoodi Bohra children learning Lisaan ud-Da’wat across the UK

For the Dawoodi Bohras ‘Lisaan ud-Da’wat’ or ‘Dawat Ni Zubaan’ meaning ‘The tongue of the community’ is their mother tongue. As a spoken language, the dialect draws strong reference from an Indian language- Gujarati, spoken principally by Zoroastrians, Jains and many Hindu communities. It could be maintained that since the state of Gujarat was the centre of origin of the Bohra community in India, after they arrived from the Middle Eastern countries including Yemen and Egypt to set up a base, the members whilst embracing the culture of the state also adopted its language, thus acquiring it as their Mother Tongue.

Looking at the history of India, and it being a country with open land, it previously invited lots of invaders and settlers from the neighbouring lands particularly Afghanistan, Persia (Modern day Iran) or Mongolia, who eyed India as a prolific land abundant with riches and prosperity. The invaders who held supremacy across the land from time to time introduced their cultures and traditions along with their everyday spoken language amongst the native inhabitants who promptly acquired the capability of understanding the lingo and speaking in common dialect.  

Referring to Lisaan ud-Da’wat, the language can be termed unique and distinctive as it is an amalgamation of various languages, which include Arabic, Urdu, Persian and Gujarati. Though, the articulation and expression sounds that of Gujarati, Lisaan ud-Da’wat is chiefly characterised by Arabic as the language is written in the said script. To imply that Lisaan ud-Da’wat has a substantial element of the Gujarati language would be incorrect as the Bohra dialect even while speaking is mostly composed of words and phrases from the Arabic, Urdu and Persian rather than Gujarati alone.

It could be said that the Dawoodi Bohras who arrived in the state of Gujarat adopted an Indian language as their dialect though with a tinge of other languages. This kept the existing Indian culture and values as well aiding the Bohras who then left India to socially integrate and merge within the multicultural setting of other local population to become patriotic members of their home Country.

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